To think…just five months ago, Mookie Betts made his debut at second base for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs.
Though the 2011 fifth round pick had rocketed through A-ball to the tune of .314/.417/.506 with 15 homers and 38 steals last year, the Red Sox organization was in no hurry to rush him along. Blocked at second for the foreseeable future (by Dustin Pedroia), the focus was on Betts’ offensive development in the minors, not a position switch with a long-term eye toward the Majors.
And here we are, with Betts starting in center field for the Red Sox. Absolutely raking.
The 5’9″, 155 lb. Brentwood, TN product is 14-for-38 (.368) in his last ten games with the big club with three doubles, three steals, three home runs, eight RBI and eight runs scored.
While much has been made of the failures of young Red Sox players to make a positive impact on the team this season, it is Betts who has emerged as the electrifying prospect the fans have been starving to see. Unlike Xander Bogaerts or Jackie Bradley, Betts carried his disciplined, selectively aggressive approach all the way to the Major League level in 2014, and the results have been something to talk about.
From the beginning, Betts was touted as an excellent athlete who could impact a game with his legs and glove. His approach at the plate was also lauded early on.
"“He doesn’t swing at bad pitches,” said former Major Leaguer Carlos Febles, Betts’ manager with the Greenville Drive."
Though praised for his speedy bat and for staying inside the ball with a compact stroke, growing pains were expected (as with all players) as he rose through the minor leagues. But contrary to concerns about pitch recognition and gap power, Betts has seen the ball and hit the ball. Often, over the fence. He started the year terrorizing the Eastern League with a .355/.443/.551 line and 22 steals in 214 at-bats, then moved on to Pawtucket, where he slashed an impressive .335/.417/.503 in 45 games.
Sox fans haven’t seen a homegrown product with this kind of skill set since Jacoby Ellsbury.
And before that…Ellis Burks? Betts is a more patient hitter than both.
But does he have a future with the club?
Following the 2014 trade deadline and the signing of Cuban sensation Rusney Castillo, the Red Sox have a glut of outfielders that includes newcomers Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig, holdovers Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava and the downtrodden Bradley. Kind of makes you wish Betts played shortstop or third base (he did play short in high school!) – no thanks to Will Middlebrooks.
With All-World masher Giancarlo Stanton a rumored target for a Boston team looking to bounce back to contention in 2015, Betts would also be the Red Sox’ hottest property.
Not to over-inflate the tires here, but Betts is rounding into a once-in-a-generation talent, at least for an organization like the Red Sox, who haven’t historically developed five-tool players.
So, the rumors will fly and the trade winds will blow. In the end, I hope I get to see Mookie Betts in a Red Sox uniform in 2015.